Wednesday, November 6, 2002

Ouch, That Hurts!

Ouch, That Hurts!
November 6, 2002
I have an idea for anyone looking to win the Nobel Prize for Medicine: find a preventative medicine for aches and pains. There are lots of people over here hurting real bad. To win the prize it?s not going to be enough to find a cure for the aches and pains themselves; what?s needed is a preventative. Otherwise they?re going to be in bad shape for a long time.


This past Shabbat we celebrated the purchase of Ma?arat HaMachpela, the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, some three thousand seven hundred years ago. Every year we open our homes, in Hebron and in Kiryat Arba, welcoming anyone who wishes to celebrate with us. On that Shabbat we read in the weekly Torah portion about Abraham?s negotiations with Efron the Hittite, his paying the Hittite the enormous sum of four hundred silver shekels for the cave and field, known by the name Machpela. It?s really special to read this Biblical story at the actual site of the event, especially when it is so significant. This was the first land transaction in the land of Israel, in the first Jewish-settled city in Israel. The site itself is considered to be the holiest site in Judaism after the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

The two places ? Hebron and the Temple Mount - are inherently bonded. We learn in the Talmud that every morning, before beginning the daily work in the Temple in Jerusalem, the Cohanim, or priests, would look to heavens, searching for the first signs of dawn, and then ask, ?Has the sun yet risen, even in Hebron?? If the answer was positive, the work could commence. If not, they had to wait. The context of linking light and dark in Jerusalem and Hebron has consequences for us today, just as it did then. If it?s dark in Hebron, so too it will be dark in Jerusalem, G-d forbid.

This weekend is a prime example, not of gloom, but of radiance. Over 25,000 people arrived in Hebron-Kiryat Arba for Shabbat, the largest such Shabbat we have ever hosted. What a day it was. Beginning Friday afternoon, buses started rolling into Kiryat Arba. Guests made their way to an empty room or to a host?s homes. Many slept in Kiryat Arba. Others stayed in Hebron. The real festivities began early Friday night, when prayer services began at Ma?arat HaMachpela. Literally thousands of people - men, women and children - gathered, both inside and outside the two thousand year old structure, which was constructed by King Herod above the original caves of Machpela. Inside, there simply wasn?t enough room for everyone. Following prayers and evening dinner, the streets were full, with people attending lectures and discussion groups. An overwhelming majority of the guests spent the night sleeping on a piece of floor, either in someone?s house, or somewhere else. Speaking to my own guests, we had thirty people squeezed into our living room, I told them how ironic it is: I invite them, seat them like sardines around the table, without any elbow room whatsoever, put them to sleep in a sleeping bag on the floor, and then, strangely enough, they want to come back next year!

The next morning, again, Ma?arat HaMachpela was wall-to-wall full. The morning?s highlight was the Torah-reading, not just hearing it, but actually experiencing Avraham?s acquisition of the Ma?ara. All afternoon the streets were full. Group after group visited the museum in Beit Hadassah, viewed the new building site at Tel Rumeida and spoke with young couples living in the ?Mitzpe Shalhevet? neighborhood, formerly Hebron?s Arab market. Seeing all these people, feeling their vibrancy, sensing the unbelievable support for Hebron?s Jewish community, it was like spending a day in heaven.

Of course, there has to be someone who isn?t so happy about massive support for Jews in Hebron. Early Sunday morning the Israeli media initiated attacks. How is it that so many soldiers are needed to protect Jews in Hebron? Why is the Knesset allocating so much money to activities at Ma?arat HaMachpela? Why should Arabs be held under curfew because of Jewish festivities? Israel?s Reshet Bet news called up my colleague, Noam Arnon at 6:30 in the morning to interview him a few minutes later. The news producers can stay up all night long getting ready for the attack and then give us only a few minutes to prepare to respond.

Their questions really aren?t difficult. Why a curfew? First of all, that?s a military decision, not a civilian decision. However, it?s not hard to understand. If the Arabs didn?t shoot at us at every opportunity, just as happened during the Succot holiday, there wouldn?t be a curfew. We are not responsible for the fact that they try to kill us, unless our very being in Hebron is a crime. That is also why so many forces were needed to help keep so many people safe for the day.

What really stings the Left is money. So much so, that they sprout outright lies to try and convince the Israeli public how evil we are. Meretz Knesset member Avshalom Vilan claimed that millions of shekels were allocated for activities at Ma?arat HaMachpela. No one in Hebron had any idea what he was talking about. It turned out that the budget does allocate millions of shekels - to families of Arabs killed at Ma?arat HaMachpela almost eight years ago. What also bothers the Left is money budgeted for a new tayelet - a promenade - connecting Hebron and Kiryat Arba, ranging about a kilometer and a half. Spending money on beautifying the second holiest Jewish site in the world is a felony. In short, anything positive about Hebron causes them great discomfort.

This is why I suggest someone invent a medical preventative for aches and pains. This weekend we had twenty-five thousand Jews visiting us. One of these days we?ll have twenty-five thousand Jews living in Hebron!

Ouch, that hurts!

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